Category Archives: Coastal Plain

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Jill McCorkle. Life after Life. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013.

lifeA good family saga weaves together the stories of multiple generations of distinctly different but connected characters.  In Life after Life, the family is not the Forsytes, the Snopes, or the Corleones, but the residents and staff of Pine Haven, a retirement community in Fulton, North Carolina.  Pine Haven is the current home of a number of long-time Fulton residents including Lois Flowers, the local fashion plate; Marge Walker, the hyper-judgmental widow of a local judge; Stanley Stone, a retired attorney; and Sadie Randolph, who was widowed young and went on to become a beloved teacher.  But Pine Haven has attracted some outsiders too, including Toby Tyler, a retired teacher who drifted up from South Carolina and Rachel Silverman, a lawyer from Massachusetts (pronounced MassaTOOsetts by the locals) who choose Pine Haven for a very private reason.  People like Sadie are friendly with everyone, but Marge and Stanley (who is faking dementia) stir up some trouble.  Marge can be quite critical of C.J., the young woman who serves at the beautician for the residents.  C.J. is an easy target, with her piercings, tattoos, and her odd clothing.  And Marge doesn’t even know about how C.J. earned money before she had her baby, Kurt.

Joanna, the hospice worker, knows a bit about C.J’s life, but her heart is open to C.J. and her baby.  Joanna, a local who went away and then came back, has her own past which is a ready topic for Marge and Stanley when no better subject is at hand.  The intervention of a large dog saved her life and the dog’s wise owner helped Joanna find a way past her sadness to a meaningful life.

Joanna tends both the dying and the living–even Abby, a young girl who lives nearby and who is a regular visitor at Pine Haven.  Abby’s father is a childhood friend of Joanna’s and her mother is a mean, shallow person who every reader will root against.  The lives of Abby and her parents intersect with those of the Pine Haven characters in surprising ways.  This is a novel of revelations and unexpected connections.  Life after Life is a book in McCorkle’s characteristic style–there is sadness, humor, and wry acceptance of the muddle that people can make of their lives.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coastal Plain, McCorkle, Jill

Karen Foley. Coming Up for Air. Toronto: Harlequin, 2012.

comingupforairArmy captain Jenna Larson is an ace Black Hawk helicopter pilot on her way from Fort Drum in New York to Kabul Airbase in Afghanistan. Stuck at Fort Bragg in North Carolina for three days before heading out, Jenna finds herself running into the same handsome serviceman over and over. Her nosy Warrant Officer and best friend, Laura Costanza, ID’s him– he’s Chase Rawlins, a soon-to-be-deployed, serious-minded special ops officer. When Jenna next sees him at a local bar, he seems just as attracted to her as she is to him. One thing leads to another. Jenna files the memorable encounter away in her head for later, when she’s running dangerous missions in Afghanistan. She never thinks she’ll see Chase Rawlins again.

In fact, she’d be surprised to learn that she has never met Chase Rawlins to begin with. Her tryst was not with him, but with his identical twin brother Chance– a hot-headed, devilish Apache helicopter pilot. When Jenna’s path crosses that of the real Chase in Afghanistan, she’s surprised and disappointed but stoic about his blank response to her presence…until she runs into Chance the same day. Chance hasn’t been able to stop thinking about Jenna, and when he finally sets her case of mistaken identity to rights, she isn’t pleased. Jenna has rules about sleeping with other pilots. Will Chance get a second chance with Jenna? And is their budding romance able to withstand both Afghanistan and the United States Army’s strict regulations?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coastal Plain, Cumberland, Foley, Karen, Harnett, Hoke, Moore, Romance/Relationship

Corrine Jackson. If I Lie. New York: Simon Pulse, 2012.

lieWhen you’re in high school, things can seem very black-or-white. Girl cheats on her boyfriend who is a Marine on duty in Afghanistan, she’s trash. When that boyfriend is MIA after a firefight, the whole town shuns her and calls her ugly names.  Since this girl is the child of a woman who ran off with another man, even her own father treats her with a cold disdain. Like mother, like daughter.

This is Sophie Topper Quinn’s life. Quinn–the name her father insists on–has learned to accept her father’s cold manner. In the years since her mother left, Quinn has wondered what role she might have played in her mother’s departure. She can’t say that her father’s behavior is unreasonable, but she is shocked to find herself so on her own after a photo surfaces on Facebook that shows her kissing someone other than Carey Breen. No one knows that Quinn turned to someone else after Carey told her her that he was gay and asked her help in covering that for him in their small military town.

To keep Quinn out of trouble, her dad arranges for her to volunteer at the Veterans Administration Hospital in nearby Fayetteville.  There she becomes friends with George Wilkins, a retired military photographer.  George recognizes Quinn’s talent and enlists her to work with him on the Veterans History Project. Quinn’s edgy defensiveness does not put off George and as their friendship grows, he helps her navigate additional curve balls–like her mother’s return–that come her way.

Although If I Lie focuses on how Quinn responds the turmoil in her life, readers also get a look into the lives of other characters, particularly George, Quinn’s mother, and Carey’s best friend, Blake.  All have behaved in ways that they regret, without mercy or grace to themselves or those closest to them. By placing this coming-of-age novel in a military town in the Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell Era, Corrine Jackson has produced a book that will engage both young adult and mature readers.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Children & Young Adults, Coastal Plain, Cumberland, Jackson, Corrine, Onslow

Margaret Maron. The Buzzard Table. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2012.

It’s hard to believe that the war on terror has come to Colleton County, but that’s what PAT–Patriots Against Torture–thinks.  Its members believe that the county airport is being used  to fly terrorism suspects out of this country to secret prisons in Europe where they will be tortured.  As this novel opens, Jeremy Harper, a local high school boy in the group who trespassed at the airport, appears in Deborah Knott’s court to answer the charges against him.  Because Jeremy does not have a record, he is given community service time.  He will use his talents as a photographer to document the stories of local veterans.  His activities will be directed by a local minister and Anne Harald, a noted photojournalist who is in town to attend to the needs of her dying mother, local grande dame Mrs. Lattimore.

Anne Harald is the mother of NYPD detective Sigrid Harald, who has also come to Colleton County to be with Mrs. Lattimore.  Even though Mrs. Lattimore is fading fast, she insists that the family entertain a long-lost nephew who is in the area doing research on buzzards.  Against her will, Deborah is roped in to dining with the Lattimore clan.  Deborah has already met the nephew and has been put off by his bad manners and excessive desire for privacy.  Later, when an attractive realtor is murdered and her body dumped near the birder’s research site, Deborah is suspicious, as is Sigrid.

But this is a case for the county sheriff, and Deborah’s husband, sheriff’s deputy Dwight Bryant, suspects that a jealous husband or spurned lover committed the crime.  The murder of a stranger at a local motel sets both Dwight and the reader to ponder whether the two murders are connected.  While Dwight works on the cases, Deborah keeps the home fires burning, cementing her relationship with her stepson Cal.  As the novel ends they are more a family, even as Deborah realizes that there are things about Dwight’s past that she does not–and may never–know.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coastal Plain, Maron, Margaret, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Barbara Arntsen. High on the Hog: A Peri Mason Mystery. United States: CreateSpace, 2012.

Reporter Periwinkle “Peri” Mason is looking forward to a relaxing Carolina fall. Earlier in the year she narrowly avoided becoming a victim while unexpectedly solving a slew of murders on Myrtle Beach, and in her opinion, once was enough. Unfortunately, the universe has other plans for the tough journalist from fictional Lofton, North Carolina.

While walking along the Neuse River in Wayne County near Lofton, Peri’s spirited Jack Russell terrier discovers something truly grisly– a body floating in the shallows. The corpse is that of Curtis Ganner, who was missing for several days. Mysteriously, his truck was found miles upriver, making murder the likely cause of his demise. Curtis worked for the McKeel Processing Plant, which is one of the largest pork producers in eastern North Carolina. The plant’s human fatality rate begins to rise when another missing employee is also found murdered. When a third victim’s head is found among some porcine remains, Peri can’t help herself– she starts investigating.

As she digs into the soft underbelly of the pork industry the intrepid reporter finds not only murder, but industrial espionage. Soon she is knee-deep in pig excrement (literally and figuratively), and more in danger than ever. Will Peri make it out alive this time?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Arnsten, Barbara, Coastal Plain, Duplin, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Suspense/Thriller, Wayne

Stephanie McCoy. Sweet as Cane. Berkeley, CA: Pen & Mouse Books, 2012.

Marrow is a small, fictional town in North Carolina, somewhere between the Triangle and the Atlantic Ocean. In 1957, it still clings to many of the thoughts and traditions that have been at its core for the last century. This includes the practice of photographing deceased loved ones as if they were still among the living– babies in particular. No one is more skilled in this morbid photography than Cane Walker, the daughter of the town’s (surprisingly female) mortician.

At a healthy twenty-three years, one would expect Cane to be married with a family of her own. But a tragic accident during her birth left her with a scarred and disfigured face. Neither life nor the townsfolk have been kind to Cane, who finds her raison d’etre behind the safe, concealing disguise of a camera lens. She has a gift for composing a photograph so good that it brings a dead child back to life, at least for a time. While the town inhabitants ridicule her face, they cannot deny her talent– every mother who loses a child wants a photograph from the mysterious Miss Walker. Unfortunately, Cane has a bad habit of stealing small keepsakes from the little bodies before they go next-door to her mother, Darleen, for burial. A pin here, a letter there– Cane herself isn’t sure why she steals, only that it is part of her process. But Cane’s life is about to change, and although they don’t realize it, the community around her will also change as a result.

Told through the eyes of different residents in the small town, from rich to poor and black to white, Sweet as Cane follows the little tragedies of daily life in a more unforgiving time.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coastal Plain, Historical, McCoy, Stephanie, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Sheila Turnage. Three Times Lucky. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012.

Moses “Mo” LoBeau is no stranger to mysteries. Found as an infant floating down the Tar River on some debris during a powerful hurricane, the rising sixth grader’s very existence is something of an oddity around Tupelo Landing. Which is not to say that she is shunned by the (fictional) eastern North Carolina town; on the contrary, Mo is a star. Helping her guardians, Colonel LoBeau (who found and named her) and Miss Lana, run the local cafe (which serves such specials as peanut butter and banana on Wonder Bread and Mountain Dew as the drink du jour), Mo is beloved by all of the hotspot’s customers. Although she would love to know who her “Upstream Mother” is, and she tries to find her by sending letters in bottles along nearby tributaries, Mo is content. But then Joe Starr, a lawman with too many questions about the Colonel, shows up, and  Miss Lana goes missing.  The town is shocked when Mr. Jesse is found murdered and Mo’s best friend, Dale Earnhardt III, was the last to see him alive. With all this trouble so close to home, Mo steps up as pint-sized detective to crack the multiple cases. In doing so, she preserves  the only family she has ever known and returns her close-knit village to normalcy.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Children & Young Adults, Coastal Plain, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Turnage, Sheila

Jerry Eden. Ashley Jordan’s Secret. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006.

It’s a beautiful day at the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park just outside of Goldsboro, North Carolina. But the day turns bleak when a couple celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary with a trip to the park discovers the body of a young girl. Wayne County law enforcement, headed by the handsome Officer Rico Acosta, quickly determines that foul play was involved. At the same time, powerful State Senator Zachary Jordan contacts Rico to inform him that his teenage daughter, Ashley, is missing. What Rico fears soon proves to be true: Ashley Jordan and the murdered girl found at the Neuse River are one and the same.

Slade Lindsey is just passing through Wayne County on his motorcycle, so when he’s arrested for murder, he’s very surprised. He agrees to cooperate with Rico, whom he trusts, but it soon becomes clear that someone wants Slade to take the fall for Ashley’s murder. It doesn’t help that Slade is an outsider to the community, and looks a little rough around the edges. What follows is a complicated court case that eventually involves highly skilled professionals from New York City, as well as one of the best defense attorneys in the United States. As the trial progresses, it becomes clear to all that Ashley Jordan’s death was neither a crime of passion nor opportunity. The young woman knew something valuable, and it got her killed. Will this crack team of law enforcement professionals discover who killed Ashley Jordan? More importantly, will they be able to prove Slade’s innocence and save him from certain death?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2006, Coastal Plain, Eden, Jerry, Mystery, Wayne

Tim Owens. The Search Committee. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2012.

In this novel Tim Owens presents an affectionate portrait of the people and places of eastern North Carolina.  When a small North Carolina Presbyterian church east of  I-95 needs a new pastor, the church does what churches do: they appoint a search committee to screen applications and visit the best candidates.  The seven parishioners on the committee represent all types of people in the church: they are young and old, long-time locals and newcomers, single, married, and widowed.  Most Sundays between the spring and early fall they pack themselves into the church’s Econoline van and drive around the state visiting preachers who are looking to move to a new church.

Much of the story is revealed through the musings of a young married man, Travis Booth.  Through him readers ponder how difficult it is for seven strangers to slip into the Sunday service of a small church without being noticed, what hymn selection might indicate about the preacher’s liturgical style, and whether pew cushions are worth the expense.  While most chapters begin with a brief selection from a Presbyterian catechism or confessional document and the book includes sermon excerpts that will make some regular church goers smile, the novel is not so much about the church as it is about the people on the search committee.  Each person carries a long-term sorrow or is facing a problem that is revealed as the novel unfolds.  Readers will root for these nice people to find grace and healing as much as they wait to see if the search for a minister will be successful.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coastal Plain, Owens, Tim, Religious/Inspirational

Sandra Robbins. Shattered Identity. New York: Love Inspired Books, 2012.

Scott Michaels is a veteran with PTSD.  His faith is helping him heal, and as this novel opens he is settling in to his post-military life as a sheriff’s deputy on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina.  Scott has kin on Ocracoke; uniting with them has given him a family he never knew he had.  After his mother died, her sister kidnapped Scott, so he grew up never knowing his father or his half sisters who now give him love and a feeling of belonging denied to him as a child.  He is both grateful and angry.  With these issues on his plate, Scott knows he should stay away from Lisa Wade, the attractive young woman who is the dispatcher at the sheriff’s office.

Lisa seems to have a more settled life and a secure place in the tight-knit island community.  But Lisa’s backstory is just as troubled as Scott’s.  Lisa’s father died when she was young, and her mother committed suicide a short time later.  With little love or guidance from her cold grandmother, Lisa nonetheless grew into a kind and sensible young woman. She did, however, make a mistake when she fell for the easy charms of Calvin Jamison, a local lady’s man and corrupt cop. When Lisa learned about Calvin’s illegal activities, she turned in him.  Calvin, now in prison, blames Lisa for his imprisonment.  When Lisa is attacked and her house ransacked, everyone assumes that Calvin is taking his revenge.  Scott is one of the deputies assigned to protect Lisa.  Against their wills, Scott and Lisa are drawn to each other as the violence against Lisa escalates and she discovers disturbing things about her community and her family.  In fits and starts they learn to trust in each other and in God as the novel moves to a dramatic climax.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coastal Plain, Hyde, Religious/Inspirational, Robbins, Sandra, Romance/Relationship